The 19 TH AMENDMENT
Posted on May 1st, 2015

Janaki Chandraratna Pert, Western Australia

Congratulations are in order to Prof. G. L. Peiris and a few UPFA Parliamentarians for being diligent in ensuring that the Govt. followed the due process and was compliant with the Supreme Court determination in passing of 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Mr. Sirisena was voted in as the President as people needed to abolish or at a minimum curtail the excessive powers of the President. No one of right mind would have wanted the country to plunge into a dictatorship. People were not aware of the absolute powers of the President as the previous President on many instances kept to the parliamentary processes. The impeachment of the previous Chief Justice (CJ) and the appointment of the new CJ were done according to the parliamentary procedures.

The voters however, had the opportunity to observe elements of dictatorial rule in the current Presidential regime of Mr. Sirisena. The appointment of Mr. Ranil Wickemasinghe from a minority party as the Prime Minister; the replacement of the existing cabinet from the UNP, which is a minority party; the appointment of Ministers on the run; replacement of senior public servants and the recall of diplomats from foreign missions, to the extent of leaving many missions without ambassadors, were some of the activities undertaken with executive powers of the President. Further the manner of sacking of the CJ and the re-appointment of a sacked CJ by the Parliament, albeit for 24 hours, and the appointment of a new CJ by only a stroke of the pen by the President, left the bewildered electorate distressed and overwhelmed. In fact, in the context that the main mission of the President was to abolish Presidential powers within 100 days, the above maneuvers were quite superfluous and excessive, in particular if the UNP is not returned at the forthcoming elections.

In the above scenario, many Parliamentarians were in favor of curbing Presidential powers. In fact the basis of the `National Government’, primarily, was to abolish the office of the President and most Parliamentarians were committed to this cause. The dissension however was on the government’s defiance of the due process and insertion of clauses non-compliant with the Supreme Court ruling on 19th amendment. The necessity for the President to obtain Prime Minister’s approval for cabinet ministerial appointments; the media control measures; the appointment of non-parliamentarians to the proposed Constitutional Council were some of the perils the opposition had to resolve before the ratification of the Government amendment.  Although Mr. Sirisena was involved in considerable negotiations to unite the parties on 19th Amendment, the initiation of the debate and the refinements introduced to ensure the integrity of the constitution and principles of democracy is indeed an achievement of the opposition, thanks to the leadership provided by the learned Professor G. L. Peiris and the support extended to him by a few perceptive UPFA members.

One Response to “The 19 TH AMENDMENT”

  1. SA Kumar Says:

    Congratulations are in order to Prof. G. L. Peiris and a few UPFA Parliamentarians !
    Janaki Chandraratna Pert hope you are not smocking kanja while you were writing this article ???

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